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Traffic jams at Cape Horn, offshore-sailing's heartaches, 2023 Rolex Awards

by David Schmidt 13 Feb 16:00 GMT February 13, 2024
Arkea Ultim Challenge - Brest © Yann Riou / polaRYSE / GITANA SA

A few weeks ago, I spilled a considerable amount of editorial e-ink in this newsletter describing the embarrassment of riches that 2024 is presenting to the sailing world, and this has been on full display on the waters surrounding Cape Horn this past week. That's because - as of this writing - three of the Ultims that are racing solo in the Arkea Ultim Challenge have rounded the Horn, plus seven singlehanded sailors racing in the Global Solo Challenge, and 11 teams that are racing in the Ocean Globe Race 2023.

In almost 20 years of covering high-level offshore racing, I cannot recall a time when so many people were rounding the Horn at the same time. Nor, for that matter, can I recall a time when a race leader was forced to slow down prior to arriving at the tip of South America, but this speed bump was exactly what skipper Charles Caudrelier, who is racing aboard the 105' trimaran Maxi Edmond de Rothschild, experienced.

The reason, of course, was weather. Cape Horn, after all, isn't exactly known for its sunny days and mill-pond sailing. So, Caudrelier killed time as he waited for weather systems to move on and stabilize, and he carefully chose a window that would deliver reasonable, non-boat-breaking conditions.

Caudrelier's patience was rewarded with moderate northwesterly winds when he passed Cape Horn at 17:08:20 hours on Tuesday, February 6, while posting speeds in the 20-30 knot range. Impressively, it only took Caudrelier 30 days, 4 hours, 38 minutes, and 20 seconds to reach Cape Horn (including his intentional break stomping) from the race's starting line.

While Caudrelier enjoys a (ballpark) 1,840 mile lead over skipper Armel Le Cléac'h, who is racing aboard Maxi Banque Populaire XI, and a 2,070 mile lead over Thomas Coville, who is sailing aboard Sodebo Ultim 3, he still has about 4,700 nautical miles of sailing left to dispatch before he can celebrate.

All three of these skippers are now pressing north in the South Atlantic, with Caudrelier posting speeds in the low 20s (again, at the time of this writing). But, with the entire North Atlantic to go, Caudrelier needs to focus on pace and not pressing too hard. After all, if his weather-induced slow down cost him the outright around-the-world record (and I'm still hoping this is still in the cards), the smart-money play is to defend his sizable lead without risking man or machine.

Meanwhile, in the Global Solo Challenge, skipper Philippe Delamare (FRA), who is racing aboard Mowgli, his Actual 46, continues to put on a master class in solo circumnavigation racing. As of this writing, Delamare enjoys a (ballpark) 2,450 nautical mile lead over Cole Brauer (USA), who is racing aboard her Class 40, First Light, with "only" 1,800 nautical miles separating Mowgli's bow from the finishing line.

This isn't a huge amount of runway for First Light to pursue, so it's officially time to start checking in with the race tracker on a regular basis.

Life is rarely fair, and ocean racing is often an even stingier master. Sadly, this reality hit home on Monday for Ronnie Simpson, who was racing in the Global Solo Challenge aboard his Open 50, Shipyard Brewing, before being dismasting approximately 650 nautical miles east-southeast of Buenos Aires. He had been in third place. According to reports, the American skipper is uninjured, but he has deployed his EPIRB is awaiting rescue from a Taiwanese-flagged bulk carrier sometime later today or tomorrow.

Simpson, it should be noted, rounded Cape Horn in the nasty conditions that Caudrelier was trying to avoid, albeit aboard a much sturdier vessel than Caudrelier's Ultim.

Sail-World has a candle lit that Simpson is rescued safely, and we applaud his impressive efforts in this grueling race.

And, in the Ocean Globe Race 2023, skipper Marie Tabarly and her Pen Duick VI crew were the first race entrants to round Cape Horn. They were followed around the bottom of Patagonia by co-skippers Marco Trombettiand Vittorio Malingri and their Translated 9 crew.

Unfortunately for the Translated 9 crew, they sustained hull damage that's requiring a pit stop. It remains to be seen if this will require outside assistance, thus removing the team from Leg 3's standings.

While this is rough news for the Italian-flagged team, there's still plenty of action to be enjoyed from afar in this around-the-world retro race, as nine other teams are also pursing Pen Duick VI as the race leader pushes the final 225 nautical miles that separates them from Leg 3's finishing line.

It should be noted that skipper Heather Thomas and her Maiden crew are in second place, but they are some 330 nautical miles astern of Pen Duick VI.

Sail-World wishes safe passage to all sailors who are engaged in these bold around-the-world races, and we especially send our thoughts to Simpson, who has fought so hard and endured so much, only to experience the heartache of a dismasting just days after rounding the Horn.

Finally, much closer to home, US Sailing recently honored Charlie Enright and Christina Wolfe with their 2023 Rolex Yachtsman and Yachtswoman of the Year Awards.

Enright, who is no stranger to the readers of this newsletter, won his timepiece by proudly winning 2023 The Ocean Race, while Wolfe earned hers for the impressive two-handed offshore sailing that she has been doing with her husband, Justin Wolfe, on European waters aboard Red Ruby, their co-owned Jeanneau Sunfast 3300.

"Never in a million years did I expect to be standing on this stage, let alone in the room with all of you," said Wolfe at the awards ceremony. "This is an incredible honor for me to be up here on this stage. I don't sail for a living, but when I do sail, it's the most alive that I feel, and I know many of you feel that as well. I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to do this, to see these iconic races, and to meet inspiring people."

Sail-World sends a big congrats to Enright and Wolfe for these great achievements, and we look forward to seeing where these fine sailors turn up next.

May the four winds blow you safely home.

David Schmidt North American Editor

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